How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?
I get this question all the time, so I thought it would make for a good post. The short answer is it varies. Every author is different; some can commit 8 hours a day to write prose while others, who are already working full-time jobs, may only be able to get in an hour or two a day. Some are so driven to finish that they won’t even consider taking a break while others are fine with a week or two off from writing. In this post, I’ll tell you my personal experience and let you come up with your own answer.
Before I begin, I should probably give you a little background. I’ve never written a novel from complete scratch, at least not yet. From an early age, my dream was to become an author. With that goal in mind, throughout my childhood and early years as an adult, I wrote down idea after idea about novels that I would one day write (plot lines, character profiles, settings, anything that I thought would appeal to readers). As a result of those efforts, when I finally did decide to write full-time, I had a vast resource of ideas to draw from. So, in a way, I guess my experience of time spent writing a novel is a bit unfair to writers who start from scratch. That said, I’m more than happy to share how it worked out for me.
Both Rebirth and The Drift, my first two novels, were published in 2016, the former in January and the latter in August. Both books were based upon foundational elements I had developed long before sitting down to draft the manuscripts.
At the tail-end of 2014, I hit it hard with Rebirth after quitting my job to write full-time. Being my first novel, I spent the first few weeks searching for the best editors and resources to make it a success. My initial plan was to submit the final manuscript to publishing houses for consideration, but that changed over time as I learned just how long and difficult that process can be. I wanted the world to read my words and be impacted by what they read, not to spend a decade on rejection notices; hence, my eventual decision to self-publish.
While drafting Rebirth, driven by an overwhelming desire to get it out into readers’ hands, I wrote seven days a week, ten to twelve hours a day without fail! Whether I was sick or tired or whether it was raining or snowing, I sat at the keyboard almost from the time I woke until I went to bed. Even in my sleep, I was still working.
I know this is going to sound crazy, but it’s true: my characters would speak to me in my dreams! Literally! No, really; I’m being serious. If I had gone to sleep leaving one of my lead characters in a compromising position or facing a cliffhanger, the resolution would play out in my dreams. Often, if I’d wake before morning, I would be back at my computer jotting down the notes before going back to bed. So, in a sense, I guess you could say I worked on it 24 hours a day.
It took me one full year to complete Rebirth. That time includes editing, refining, formatting, cover design, and development of front and back matter which all take a substantial amount of time, especially for a first-time self-published author.
In the spring of 2015, while working relentlessly on Rebirth, an idea for another novel came to mind, an idea that expanded on one of my previous ideas. Normally when that happens for me, I just make a note in my “Novel Ideas” document and put it away for later. This time, however, I felt like I could use a short distraction from my current project. That glimmer of an idea spawned the creation of The Drift.
With two active projects going, I shifted gears. While spending most of 2015 on Rebirth, I would take short reprieves from that work to draft content for The Drift. When my first book was finished and published in January of 2016, I transitioned to working full-time on my second novel. I published The Drift in August of 2016.
As a general estimate, I would say both full-length novels took me about one year to write, edit, format and publish. What I learned about the process was that writing is the easy part; it’s what comes after your first draft that is a pain in the ass!
That’s two examples, but, in stark contrast, let me offer you a third. My most recent novel, The Wanderer, took me just three weeks to draft! Once again, it was based on a prior idea, so you’ll have to take that into consideration.
After my first two books, I was a bit burned out by all the time and effort I had invested. A bit is probably an understatement as I ended up taking almost a 5-year sabbatical to travel and spend more time with family.
In 2021, I decided it was time for a new book. Fans of Rebirth were asking when Reborn, the sequel, was going to come out and I felt an itch that just had to be scratched. I did actually work on Reborn a bit though I wound up putting it on the back burner when another novel idea came to mind.
With the world in turmoil with political rivalries, social injustice protests, poverty and unemployment on the rise, and a multitude of global issues that threatened to change life as we know it, I began to work on Genesis, a novel for the times.
For the purposes of this blog post, I won’t go into great detail about Genesis, but I will say this about the book:
Imagine the world in despair (not too hard, considering…) and you are given the opportunity to change it. What if you could press a button and put an end to poverty, crime, overpopulation, political unrest? What if your act would prevent rapes, murders, and wars? What if the cost of pressing the button was that 99% of humanity would instantly perish? Would you still press it?
Anyway, I digress. I finished the first draft manuscript in six months; now, it sits on my virtual shelf awaiting editing. Why you may ask, did I shelve it for now? Because one of my other novel ideas called to me and demanded my attention.
In December of 2021, while living in Vietnam, I contracted COVID-19. During my uncomfortable 2-week stay in the hospital, I wrote my new book, The Wanderer: Vindicta, entirely with pencil and paper since my laptop was at home. One week after I was released, the first draft was finished. In total, The Wanderer took me three weeks to write although it still faces the challenges of editing and fine-tuning. I’m hoping to publish it in the late spring or early summer of 2022.
How long does it take to write a novel? It depends! That’s my final answer. Thanks for reading and see you soon. Please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe!